Taiwan: Burning of the Plague God Boat

According to Taiwan.net,

The burning of the Plague God Boat is one of the folk rituals of the seafaring people in southwestern Taiwan. The original purpose of this ritual was to send the Plague God out to the sea, and diseases along with him; today it is an activity held to pray for peace and good fortune. The festival is held once every three years, around the ninth lunar month, at Donglong Temple in Donggang. The boats are burned in the middle of the fourth month at Cingan Temple in Sigang, Tainan County. Generally, the Donggang event is bigger. These celebrations include large-scale temple activities, which climax with the burning of the plague god boat on the last day.

The Donggang boat-burning celebrations run for eight days and seven nights. According to custom, before the boat is set afire, devotees and other participants prepare goods for the symbolic trip. Then a big fire is made (this is to force bad spirits and the Plague God to go aboard), and the boat is burned while the people pray for peace.

But not just at Donggang (google map link) or southeastern Taiwan, the same ritual is conducted in many small villages all around Taiwan with diversity. YangPhoto recorded one of them in Da Jiou (Pingdong City), which was conducted in a minimal fashion on his photo blog:

YangPhoto says:

該廟宇的送王儀式,參與的當地信徒只有數十人 與動輒數千人大型王船祭相比

This is a small and beautiful Plague God Boat Burning ritual.
I have taken photos of the ritual for more than a dozen times.
But I have never seen such simple but distinctive local God Boat.
The God Boat is made with paper and can be lifted up by four men.
In the morning, after I took the photo of Donggang's tuna boats in the harbor, I drove to Chao Feng Temple, which is located in Dajiou village, Pingdong City.
This temple's ritual was attened by merely several dozens of believers,
which is outshone by larger temples’ rituals with several thousands of believers.



An crucifix-like anchor?



A bottle of soy sauce on boat. Shipmen and guardsmen are also made of paper. It can't be more simple.



With the 4 handles, it only takes 4 men to lift up the paper-made God Boat.



Lady believers sit behind the mini van at ease.



The elder is smoking while looking at the riverside, waiting for the ritual of God Boat Burning to proceed.



It takes only a little bit more than 10 minutes to load the boat with paper offerings.



The little girl next to her grandma smiles at my lens and shows me a “V” hand gesture timidly.




After the religious service, burning of the God Boat began right away.




The incense burner floats away along Gaoping river
The ritual in Chao Feng Temple in Dajiou, Pingdong, is very quiet, no crowds of people, nor hurly-burly battle array.
It might disappear with time passing by.
But local people's belief which root deep in the Taiwan soil,
will never change….

All the photos in this post are reposted with the permission of original author, YangPhoto.

You can see more photos of Plague God Boat Burning around Taiwan on flickr here.


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